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What is the cost of a commute?

The average Australian spends $112 on commuting costs every week. How much could you be saving by switching to public transport?

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Whether you hop on a ferry in Sydney's Harbour, slip into a packed Melbourne tram or drive through Adelaide's hilly suburbs, commuting to work is part of most people's daily routine.

We crunched the numbers on how much Australians are spending on their daily commute, the cost of taking public transport versus driving, and how our commuting habits have changed in the wake of the pandemic and record-high fuel prices.

How much do Australians spend on commuting costs?

According to Finder analysis, the average person spends approximately $112 per week on commuting costs – equivalent to $4,924 per year once public holidays, annual leave and sick leave are taken into account. This includes $65 for fuel, but toll roads, parking and other car ownership costs like car insurance are excluded. Meanwhile public transport costs Australians $35 per week on average.

We also calculated how much walking and cycling costs you based on caloric output – a single calorie costs around 0.4 cents on average. For the average person, this translates to a cost of $3.59 per week for walking and $1.39 for riding their bike or scooter.

How much does it cost to take public transport to work?

The cost of a commute varies by city, and can cost as much as $82.60 per week if you're travelling through 4 zones in Brisbane, and $80 per week in Sydney.

Public transport can cost just $32 per week in Sydney (for less than 3km travelled by bus) or Perth (for zone 1 travel), and $31 per week in Melbourne (for zone 2 travel).

In Adelaide, transport fares stay the same regardless of distance travelled, excluding off-peak and concession fares.

Is it cheaper to take public transport or to drive to work?

To catch the train or to drive in the comfort of your own car? It's a common dilemma, and there are pros and cons to both options. In the winter, waiting for your train or bus could have you shivering outside in the cold, but driving usually comes out as the pricier option – especially if you have to pay for parking.

We calculated the cost of driving to work versus taking public transport from major outer city suburbs in several cities.

How has the pandemic changed Australians' commuting habits?

During the pandemic, many Australians gave up public transport in favour of the safety of their own vehicles to avoid catching the virus. With a large portion of people working and studying from home, many stopped commuting altogether.

While the reopening of workplaces and businesses has seen more Australians commuting to work again, research shows we haven't completely returned to our pre-pandemic habits.

A quarter of people (27%) say they are walking more than they used to, compared to 14% who are walking less.

Slightly more people say they are driving less frequently than they used to (21%) than those who are driving more frequently (18%). 27% are using public transport less than they were pre-pandemic, while only 8% are using it more often.

The research also shows 39% of Australians use a bike or scooter to commute to places, and 25% use a city-owned bike or scooter such as Uber's Lime bikes and scooters.

How have fuel prices changed Australians' driving habits?

The price of fuel increased by a staggering 35% over the 12 months to March 2022, according to the Consumer Price Index. The rising cost of living, and of petrol in particular, is not lost on Australians. In May 2022, 30% of people ranked petrol as one of their top 3 most stressful expenses, according to Finder's Consumer Sentiment Tracker.

As a result, some Australians are cutting back on driving to bring down their fuel expenses. Nearly one-third of people (32%) admit they have reduced how frequently they drive their car. One-quarter (24%) are walking more frequently, 13% are taking public transport more frequently and 5% are riding their bike more frequently.

Still, the majority (59%) have not changed their driving habits as a result of fuel prices. A further 1% say they drive an electric car and are therefore unaffected by fuel prices.

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